My son, who lives with me, is a creature of the cold. He sleeps with a fan in the winter; in fact, until he got lonely his bedroom was in the basement, far away from the central heating he finds uncomfortable. He likes to stay cool.
So his bedroom window remains open, and since said window is next to the front steps, he’s our first line of defense against cable company solicitors and evangelizers.
And he introduced me the other day to a favorite pastime. When he hears footsteps on the front stairs, he sometimes yells out, “Who goes there? Friend or foe?” and then watches the UPS guy do a little dance. Small pleasures.
He’s full of small pleasures, in fact, which comes in handy this time of year. Summer, that is, when the rising temperature, sunnier days, and lack of classes to teach inspires my lovely wife to take stock of her living situation and leave home.
There are other factors, but I’m a realist. She lives with two men, and while I assume she loves us and appreciates having someone who can reach the top shelf for her when necessary, there’s obviously some sort of biological imperative going on here. Tolerance is surely a virtue, but she’s only human and it appears that once a year she feels the need for a testosterone break. She can’t hide, but she can run.
To be fair, she always has a good reason. This year, she attended a conference in the hill country of south Texas, which is relatively close to Austin, where our daughter and her husband live. As my daughter is six months pregnant, and my son-in-law was going to be out of town on business, this gave the two of them a few days of female bonding, during which they apparently ate at a lot of restaurants and assembled baby things, including a rocking moose and a crib they bought at Ikea.
This was not a chore, by the way, but a pleasure, which my wife explained to me. “There were two of us actually reading instructions,” she said, as if that were important or something.
I’ve lived with my wife for 30 years now, which by my calculations makes me an expert in human relationships and also in how hot a curling iron can get, particularly if you touch it.
Mostly, though, my expertise revolves around recognizing the tension that can exist in the male-female dynamic. A release valve of some sort seems to be necessary, so I guess it’s a good thing when summer rolls around. My wife gets on a plane, and my son and I dust off our Y chromosomes and begin yelling out the window at guys in brown shorts. Fun for all.
I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes here. For just one example, I guarantee that this house will be cleaner when my wife returns than when she left. For just two examples, there’ll be plenty of clean dishes, and much laundry will have been done. That’s the way we roll in this man cave.
But there’s just something about the lack of a womanly presence that leads two men, one young and one old enough to know better, into all sorts of interesting places.
Curiosity and scientific inquiry abound. Did you know that many things, if heated, will explode? This includes bacon, but really the field is wide open. All you need is a microwave and a smoke detector that doesn’t work anymore.
And remember the dancing UPS guy? The packages he brings are usually filled with bubble wrap. There must be something about bubble wrap that tickles the reptilian brain in the male population, something ancient and primal, something that turns a guy’s head away from “Grand Theft Auto” and every Batman movie ever made. Do you remember that “supermoon” from last weekend? I meant to go outside and look at it, but I was busy stepping on bubble wrap and laughing like a crazy person. And there are no instructions to read. You just step on it.
There is, in fact, apparently some male math that goes on, in which a 54-year-old and a 23-year-old, alone in a house, achieve an average age of 14. It’s hard to explain, or even understand, but maybe it has to do with being on our best behavior for the better part of a year. Again, I can’t explain it. I’m a creature of my era, reaching adulthood when it was understood that gender-based roles had evolved. I was active and engaged with my children. I learned to cook. I can dust, vacuum, scrub, wipe, mop and sweep, but once a year it seems I just have to blow up some bacon real good.
In our defense, we did plenty of things that made less noise. We window shopped at computer and video game stores. We took walks together. We aligned our sleep cycles, split up the chores, sent text messages back and forth between our rooms, and I personally took a lot of showers, just to make sure that smell wasn’t coming from me.
And we’ll be glad to see the woman of the house when she returns. How she’ll feel is another matter. Especially if we don’t manage to clean the microwave. Although we may just stick it on a high shelf somewhere and hope she doesn’t notice. But the bacon was definitely worth it.